'A profound lack of understanding of what public art should be.' The trash can above at the Patrick Henry shelter is a perfect example of nice art, lousy public works. It doesn't hold trash.<
A guy who has a reasonable reason for wanting to remain anonymous asked me to pass along the following thoughts of his about public art, as applies to the new bus shelter at Patrick Henry High School, mentioned here Nov. 15. I will give him his say without my own opinions, which, frankly tend toward his conclusion in the case of the shelter anyway. Here ‘tis:
"I don't think that art and certain public works projects can be joined because I think that public art and public shelter are absolutely mutually exclusive. This isn't to say that architecture can't be beautiful and inspring ... The City [of Roanoke] needed to hire someone to design and build a bus shelter ... This was a waste of public art money and a waste of transportation money. It's neither art nor functional.
"True art isn't architecture (or craft or therapy, etc.). True art stands alone for its own purpose of enlightening humanity, and whether it is William Faulker's 'Light in August' or Rene Magritte's 'The Six Elements,' art stands alone as only art.
"An artist serves humanity by producing a work that acts upon us through allegory. To be clear and brief on what art is, I defer to the definitions in the book The Philosophy of Art by Stepen Davies. A copy can be read here.
"To be clear, I am saying: Genuine art can't exist in another plane in a futile attempt to serve a second master. Architecture can be influenced by art, but not to the point where its function is diminished. Genuine art is just that, and if it's public art, it needs to stand alone. I find most public art lousy.
"This bus shelter is a $40,000 waste of public funds and its not exactly Ed [Dolinger's] fault. He's an artist with clear self-interests, and if the City of Roanoke wants to throw some money at him, he may not have the critical judgment to refuse the money. Hell, he's probably just trying to make his mortgage payments and will take what he can get. ...
"The problem starts with the City or because it made poor decisions, due to a profound lack of understanding of what public art should be and what public shelter should be and how the two should never be merged.
"We need a good architect or contractor on this project. It would have cost less and served us more. But, first we need clear public policy that defines what public art is and what public works are, and I don't think we should be merging the two."